IFES Honors Tunisia’s Chafik Sarsar with 2016 Joe C. Baxter Award
On Tuesday, November 8, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) honored Chafik Sarsar, President of Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), with its 2016 Joe C. Baxter Award at a reception ceremony held during the 2016 U.S. Election Program.
IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney opened the Baxter Award ceremony by discussing Tunisia’s democratic transition and the invaluable role of Sarsar and the ISIE in conducting three rounds of credible and transparent elections in 2014. “Under his [Sarsar] leadership, the ISIE implemented important measures to improve and professionalize election management practices in Tunisia, ensuring that any shortcomings were addressed in preparation for the 2014 legislative and presidential elections,” Sweeney noted.
Following his remarks, Sweeney introduced Tunisian Ambassador to the U.S. H.E. Fayçal Gouia who discussed Tunisia’s efforts at democratic consolidation and thanked Sarsar and his colleagues at the ISIE for their contribution to Tunisian democracy. U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance David Yang followed Ambassador Gouia by discussing the state of global democracy and the importance of the work of organizations like IFES and individuals like Sarsar to ensure that every voice has a vote. Yang called Sarsar “an excellent example for all election administrators” and said that “elections are human rights in practice.”
Sarsar, a law professor, became a member of the Higher Authority for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition (also called the Ben Achour Commission) following the 2011 resignation of then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was elected President of the ISIE, on January 9, 2014, and administered the conduct of three rounds of elections in the fall of 2014.
The Baxter Award is given in memory of the late Joe C. Baxter, a legendary figure in the field of international electoral assistance. Baxter began his work with IFES in 1994 as Chief of Party in Ghana, setting up mechanisms to register 9.2 million voters and train tens of thousands of election officials. In recognition of his efforts, he was named a chief by one of Ghana’s largest tribes. From 1997-2002, as a Senior Adviser to IFES, his professionalism, kindness and respect left lasting impacts on the people he worked with during IFES missions to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Previous recipients of the Baxter Award include election management expert Michael Maley of Australia; former Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone Dr. Christiana Thorpe; Professor of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University in Denmark Dr. Jørgen Elklit; former Chairman of the Philippine Commission on Elections Christian S. Monsod; campaign finance expert Delia Ferreira Rubio of Argentina; former Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Kwadwo Afari-Gyan; and elections expert Rafael López-Pintor of Spain.